Department of Education

Viewing archives for Sociocultural and Activity Theory

Abbey is a Probationary Research Student in the Department of Education, in collaboration with the Department of Engineering.

Before joining the DPhil program, Abbey obtained a B.A. in Applied Linguistics with minors in Russian and Chinese from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition from the University of Oxford. She was the recipient of a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship through U.S. Department of State for study in Russia and was awarded two Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships for study in both Russia and China. She holds both TESOL and TEFL certificates and has taught English as a Second Language in various contexts to a wide variety of learner populations.

Abbey’s main research interests lie in the use of technology to facilitate language learning. Her DPhil research focuses on the development of a virtual reality program to bridge the gaps that students face when learning languages through distance learning.

Minto Felix is a doctoral student investigating research culture in Indian higher education and a recipient of the department’s Judge Scholarship. He is supervised by Professor Simon Marginson and Professor Alis Oancea.

Minto is a graduate of the department’s MSc Higher Education Course, where he graduated with Distinction. He is interested in the research impact and quality of Indian universities, and the contribution of locally and regionally led research to India’s economic and social development.

Outside of Oxford, Minto is a consultant with the Nous Group, providing strategy and public policy advice to UK higher education institutions and other sectors. He has worked across Australia and the UK in strategy and advisory roles in health and higher education, and writes frequently on these issues for mainstream media outlets in both these countries. Minto also holds a Masters in Health Administration and Bachelor of Psychological Sciences from Monash University, Australia where he was a recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s “Ancora Imparo” student leadership award and the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Diversity and Inclusion.


As a mathematics teacher who believes that anyone can understand mathematics, Ashley is keenly interested in developing interventions and resources for learners who struggle with the subject. More specifically, she is focusing on the transitionary moment in the classroom when discussions have ceased, and practice begins and how this transition can become more fluid for learners.

By drawing on research from education, psychology and cognitive neuroscience, Ashley hopes to gain insights into how the brain and mind process information and how this knowledge can inform teacher practice and, ultimately, help learners understand mathematics.

After having taught for over ten years, Ashley completed her MSc, with Distinction, at the Department of Education, and her dissertation was “Highly Commended” by the British Educational Research Association (BERA). She is committed to making mathematics more accessible for all learners and strives for research that is not only impactful but also directly applicable to the classroom.

Before joining in the DPhil programme in Oxford, Demi completed her BA in Education Studies in UCL Institute of Education and MPhil in Educational Research in University of Cambridge. In her master thesis, she focused on the role of disciplinary differences in students’ attitudes to assessment formats.

Currently, her research interest is in self-regulated learning in the context of higher education using mixed-method approach.



Recent months have seen growing concern about the rising numbers of students being excluded from secondary schools and the use of exclusion as a reaction to poor behaviour often guided by the assumption that punishment will change behaviour.

In this presentation Ian and Harry will discuss the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic may transform practices of exclusion from school. We already know that such practices are mediated by the values, assumptions and priorities that reside in local and national cultures. Ian and Harry’s work is examining the variation in exclusion that exists within and between the jurisdictions of the UK. The variation within jurisdictions reflects the ways in which policies are re-contextualised in different school and local authority settings. In this presentation they will draw on sociologies of policy and pedagogy to speculate on the ways in which inequalities may well become exacerbated in the current crisis – the ‘lesson’ being that we should not be thinking about how we return to normal but rather we should try and transform understandings of normal practice in order that the possibilities for social justice are enhanced.

About the speakers

Harry Daniels is Professor of Education within the Department. His current research interests are in school design and exclusion from school. He is interested in sociocultural and activity theory and Bernsteinian theory.  Learn more about Harry here

Ian Thompson is an Associate Professor of English Education in the Department and Director of the PGCE course. He is joint convenor of the Oxford Centre for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research (OSAT) and a Fellow of St. Hugh’s College. He is also a member of the university’s English Faculty.  Learn more about Ian here

Both Harry and Ian are currently working on the £2.55 million ESRC funded project Excluded Lives: the Political Economies of School Exclusion and their Consequences.


This seminar will be of interest to academics, policymakers, and practitioners.

The Excluded Lives Research Team has today (19 June 2020) launched the report School Exclusion Risks after Covid-19 drawn from discussions with practitioners and professionals from health, education, criminal justice, local authorities and third sector voluntary organisations in England.

The educational disruption caused by the recent Covid-19 pandemic has produced potential new and heightened risks for school exclusions. Members of the Excluded Lives Research Team talked to practitioners, policy makers and professionals in different parts of England to glean an understanding of their perceptions of the situation.

Exclusions have risen sharply in England in the last few years. Over-represented groups include children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), from particular ethnic backgrounds and those living in areas of high deprivation. The multi-disciplinary and multi-site Excluded Lives Research Team, led by Professor Harry Daniels and Associate Professor Ian Thompson from the University of Oxford, is currently conducting a four year Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded research project on the consequences of school exclusion across the UK. The recent pandemic has raised questions about how at-risk of exclusion students might be identified and what return to school support and guidance exists or can be developed to support practitioners as well as children and families. Heightened anxiety, bereavement, poverty, disconnection from schooling and the digital divide have heightening the risk for children and young people who were already struggling with aspects of schooling and produced new unexpected categories of risk.

The report is available here.

Find out more about Excluded Lives here.

This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number 1811EP001/LH7).

Practitioners and professionals from across England are invited to participate in this virtual session on school exclusion after COVID-19. We are keen to develop an understanding of their perceptions of the situation, how at-risk students might be identified and what support and guidance exists or can be developed to support practitioners (including implications for integrated, cross-professional working) as well as children and families to successfully return to school.


Excluded Lives is a four year ESRC funded research project working across the four jurisdictions of the United Kingdom looking at the impact of exclusion from school and how more equitable outcomes can be achieved for pupils, their families, and professionals to inform future practice and policy advice. The project is based at the University of Oxford led by Dr Ian Thompson and Professor Harry Daniels.


Purpose and focus of the discussions

The impact of Covid-19 on schools is substantial for practitioners and students. We suspect certain groups of students may become at risk of exclusion as schools re-open. We want to talk to practitioners and professionals in different parts of England to glean an understanding of their perceptions of the situation, how at-risk students might be identified and what support and guidance exists or can be developed to support practitioners (including implications for integrated, cross-professional working) as well as children and families to successfully return to school.


Key questions for the discussions:

1.What are the heightened risks for exclusion as schools restart? Which students are at risk?

Impact on existing at-risk children and groups? Reluctant to return children and families: anxious and volatile. New categories who may become at risk –why, who are they? What are the reasons? Can we identify them in advance?

2.How can we mitigate these risks? Who needs to act, when and how?

How can we contribute to preparing for return to school: enabling schools, other professionals, parents and students to cope better and manage the problems of reintegration for all children? Are there identification techniques and protective strategies we can offer for at-risk groups?

3.What is happening to currently excluded students including where there is no alternative provision?

Who knows about these students? How can this information be accessed? Who is this information shared with? How and to what end?



The discussions will involve practitioners from across education, health, social care and the police. We will draw together the views of the groups into key messages that respond to the questions we have identified and flag other issues that will doubtless merge. We will then share these key messages with the project’s Knowledge Exchange and Advisory Groups to further test and challenge the ideas prior to the publication of a short paper that identifies heightened risks and how they can be identified; sources of support and guidance for professionals and practitioners, families and pupils; and strategies for reducing risk and improving outcomes.

To contribute please email by Monday 8th June,9am.


On the basis of discussions with the department’s Harry Daniels (Professor of Education), JP Morgan have published five key insights on the challenges facing our education systems during the COVID-19 pandemic and what consequences these may have on children’s approaches to learning, as well as their mental health. Read in full here.

Professor Harry Daniels’s research focuses on school design and the impact that exclusion from school has on children. Find out more about his latest ESRC-funded research project exploring the contextual & institutional processes that lead to different types of school exclusion & their consequences for young people, families, schools & professionals here.

The department’s 2018-19 annual report is now available to download. The report documents the department’s activities and achievements across the last academic year and offers an opportunity to discover the research and teaching programmes that we facilitated during 2018-19.

Highlights include:

  • Activities from our 100th anniversary year, including a timeline of department milestones from 1919 to 2019
  • Research, impact, engagement and knowledge exchange activities from across our three research themes
  • Teaching and learning achievements, from scholarship awards to alumni career destinations
  • A recap of our top news and events, including an infographic summarising our year in review

Download the report here.